As one person said of my blog, it’s a bit weird, what with you thinking you’re still in India. It’s been a long time now, that we’ve been back, and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the experience. Writing the blog has served it’s purpose though; since I’ve been back, I’ve marked exams, taught two modules, run a meeting and submitted a paper. The holiday seems a long time ago, but the notes I took for the blog has helped me to remember the experience; for this reason, even though I wrote most of these reflections while travelling, I’ve decided to write these from the present, as opposed to the past present tense all the other posts have used.
I’ve also noticed that my page view stats have plummeted to the point that they are flat-lining around 1 a day (which is probably google). Perhaps I should get back to wittering about ontologies.
One of the most pervasive parts of the experience was the architecture; we saw many different styles and many different buildings. It was magnificent, finely wrought and cleverly details. This seems to reflect a wider delight in design and ornamentation, which you seem everywhere. The women’s clothes are brightly coloured, even when they are digging holes in the road. The tuk-tuks are covered in flowers. Even the mud huts in the agricultural areas have intricate and sweeping patterns inscribed in the cow dung. It’s all in stark contrast to both the garishness of the Bollywood experience and the surrounding environment.
The food mostly lived up to my expectations. From the home cooked food in Agra, the Shanti Restaurant in Jaislmer to the thali in Mehrangarh fort, we had some really good meals. On the whole, it wasn’t a new experience. The food is not that far removed from the UK curry, although with a few unique ingredients — the Rajastani desert beans — and the careful use of coconut. Like my experiences with Italy the best thing about the food is that it’s easy to get. Everywhere you go, good food surrounds, you don’t have to hunt for it and it’s not expensive. It’s just expected, as a matter of course. Compared to the 3 quid, ready-packed, pub food that we get here, it’s magnificent. I think we have a lot to learn from India.
The poverty and degradation has been grinding — much less so in India than in Dhaka, and it’s not the first time that I have seen it, but it’s always depressing. I suspect that we only see the edges of it, and the worst of the Shantis were away from the road, but this was enough for me.
I heard less music while I was there than I would have liked—the percussion was limited to tourist and ceremonial occasions, the rest was garish Hindi pop which totally lacks in appeal to me. So, much like home then.
The pollution I expected, but India, or at least the part of it that I say, was a very dirty place. — no where is clean, with animals on the street, rubbish everywhere, and the in-town midden being the most common disposal path. I guess the cows makes some sense, as they at least dispose of the organic material and produce something useful, if smelly. Even in Delhi, just outside of our, relatively posh, hotel the place was a mess, with sand heaps everywhere, an unusable pavement, and around the corner raw sewage was spilling onto the streets from a broken pipe. I have a relatively high tolerance for this sort of thing, but really this was too much. It will remain, I suspect, till they treat their public space like their private space.
A more pleasant aspect of India was the diversity of smell. Herbs and spices fill the air, both as a byproduct of the cooking and from incense. Back home, we everything that we use is chemical, even for strong smells such as lemon. Coming back to the UK, my senses where heightened to nasal assault that my own society has turned into; it’s pointless and we should stop it.
India is becoming a world power; I thilannk it’s clear that this century will be defined by it and China; I’m glad to have visited it, particularly at the time that I have. I’ve seen many good things here; but, then, many less good. I hope that India finds solutions for its problems and builds on its strengths; ultimately, it is going to have a larger and larger impact on this society as I get older.
My favourite memories of the journey; chilling out in the Shanti resturant looking over the desert from Jaislmer, the bus journey, hideous, crazy and dangerous though it was, and finally in Jaipur the observatory and the kites from the Wind Palace.